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Mossberg: Free the iPhone

updated 02:05 pm EDT, Mon October 22, 2007

Wireless carrier critic

Lashing out at the wireless carrier cadre, Walt Mossberg says that the United States federal government has been duped into allowing AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others to lock consumers into terms unprecedented by any other industry. Mossberg makes an analogy to the desktop computer market: you don't need the permission of your ISP to replace a Dell PC with a Sony PC, for instance. You don't need to pay a fee to switch your Web browser or switch to a new music download service. But these overbearing rules due apply to the wireless industry, a state of affairs Mossberg says "limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer."

Calling them "Soviet ministries," Mossberg says that wireless carriers are detrimental to innovation in the way that they dictate what services can be used on specific phones. He says the iPhone is slightly different in this regard, in that Apple was permitted to develop a mobile device without AT&T or any other carrier having a say in the hardware and software design of the product. He says the exception was only made because "Apple is currently the hottest digital brand on earth, with its own multibillion-dollar online and physical retail network."

However, Apple has also had to implement measures like disallowing third-party programs on the phone (until February, when an iPhone SDK will be introduced) and engaging in a multi-year lock to AT&T. Mossberg says the limit on third-party applications is especially problematic for small independent developers. He writes: "I have met with multiple small companies that had trouble getting their programs onto consumers' phones without the permission of the carriers; getting that permission often requires paying the carriers. "

The problem lies in two areas: the US government did not set up a wireless standard when it needed to a few years ago, so there are two competing networks: CDMA and GSM. This means that switching to a new provider often requires a new, compatible phone. Second, the government allows the GSM carriers to 'lock' their phones, "so a SIM card from a rival carrier won't work in them, at least for a period of time."

Mossberg argues that lifting these restrictions and standardizing the network would result in cheaper, unsubsidized phones and the elimination of draconian contract cancellation fees.

Hackers have worked to unlock the iPhone from its AT&T shackles on firmware revisions up to and including 1.1.1, while "jailbreak" solutions have allowed independent developers to put natie applications on the device for some time. Meanwhile, Apple and AT&T have together faced a number of suits over the iPhone's terms of service, including $600 million class-action litigation, which claims the two firms illegally agreed to prevent owners of the cellular device from using programs or services that do not generate revenues for the two firms

by MacNN Staff





  1. BelugaShark

    Joined: Dec 1969


    heck yeh!

    Goooo Mossberrrrg!

  1. eldarkus

    Joined: Dec 1969


    i second that!!


    but there is a damn good reason our government let the cell-s*** industry so what they want.. Good ol american CASH! I'm surprised the US gov doesnt just sell shares of itself. Get a big enough stake and you can change the laws to suit your business!!

    Of course, the RIAA, MPAA and Cell Phone industry would own them outright!

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I could certainly use...

    ...much of the iPhone innovation even if it were available in Canada, however being forced into paying for uneeded or excessive data service would serve as a significant disincentive to implementing advantages that would be of assistance...

  1. Pennywigeon

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I want to play Xbox 360 games on a PS3.

    I want to use Diesel fuel in my gasoline only truck.

    I want to be able to use my "check card" at stores without having to pay ATM fees.

    I want to be able to open my email without getting bombarded by scam spam.

    I want t surf the internet without having to see billions of poorly designs ads taking up all the screen space.

    I want to make more money and pay less taxes.

    I want Hawaiian Shirt Day to be mandatory for all companies.

    I want people to quit putting so much faith in spell checkers without actually proof reading ESPECIALLY EDITORS!

    (allowing AT&T, Verizon, Spring and others to lock consumers into terms ) I think you meant SPRINT.

    I want to see people who start silly lawsuits to be held accountable for wasting tax payers money and time and be counter sued.

    I want Dexter to be available on another channel besides SHOWTIME.

    I want people who can't drive worth a c*** to ride bikes.

    I want a new law that states if you are going to whine you must stand in public on a soapbox with a megaphone and if enough people apporve then you can spam the media with your ill thought out whine fests.

    I want Microsoft to disappear.

    I want Bungie to apologize tot he MAC community.

    I want some cheese and crackers.

    I want a TV show that does nothing but show video of adult temper-tantrums.

    I want "co-pays" to be more reasonable.

    I want more nudity and less violence on TV.

    Me I want more.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: yawn

    oh for pete's sake. Congratulations, penny, on a post so stupid and pointless that it could have been written by testudo.

  1. discotronic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: yawn

    This one:

    "I want people to quit putting so much faith in spell checkers without actually proof reading ESPECIALLY EDITORS!"

    This one:

    "I want Bungie to apologize tot he MAC community."

    You could actually learn something from your own statement.

  1. Will53

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Well, that is good, but why lock it down in Europe then? One can sell free phones here...

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    spell checkers

    yes, spell check won't necessarily catch homynyms, but considering that so many people are so frickin' lazy that they can't even be bothered with spell checking their scribblings, I'm not inclined to criticize anyone who actually uses it...

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    back on topic...

    Mossberg has it exactly right. Cell phone carriers have managed to scam/bribe the government into treating them as something other than the common carriers they should be.

    US cell phone companies have a racket going. We have the best democracy money can buy here in the USA.

  1. LordJohnWhorfin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    We have the lowest cell phone rates in the world, by far. The real racket? Broadband prices. Cable and phone companies are maintaining extremely high prices for both broadband and international long distance. In France people can get 20mbps DSL + cable-like HDTV + unlimited international long distance to 49 countries (including US, Canada, India and China) for 29 euros/month. You still think Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are not ripping you off?

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